It was around 1999 when Swedish saxophonist Jonas Kullhammar felt he was ready to document his music and his quartet. For those who haven't heard this remarkable player, Kullhammar is one of those saxophonists whose excursions convey an exuberant joy in improvising and playing jazz. He has assembled an equally ebullient quartet with pianist Torbjorn Gulz, bassist Torbjorn Zetterberg and drummer Jonas Helgersson. The group has been together for almost ten years and has torn up bandstands internationally, winning over listeners who are normally recalcitrant towards anything resembling post-Coltrane jazz.
After a couple of years together, Kullhammar wanted to record. "I was 21 years old and I wanted to do my debut as a leader of my quartet. I decided right away to do it by myself so I didn't have anyone else to blame if it didn't work out. And I wanted to be in control of my own music. So I saved up money for about a year and it resulted in my first album and also the start of Moserobie Music Production." Little did he realize that in less than ten years the label would have released 60 titles and become a major documenter of the fertile modern jazz scene in Sweden.
"When I started the label, the only intent was to release my own music. My first two albums [Salut
and The Soul Of
] had great success in Sweden, which led to good distribution and sales. Alberto Pinton [an Italian-born reed player who has lived in Sweden since 1985] approached me about releasing his first record in 2001. I thought it would be a good idea to help my friends out and also help the people of planet Earth by releasing more music that I think they should hear. But I had no idea it would grow to what it is today."
Kullhammar takes great pains to emphasize that he did not do all this himself. "Mattis Cederberg also had a big hand in starting up the label. Mattis is the main graphic designer for the label. He is also a great bass trombonist who leads the Sonic Mechatronik Arkestra [who record for the label] and plays in the WDR Big Band in Cologne. He has been a friend for a long time and he is still my right hand when it comes to running the label."
The growth of the label was a gradual process, its evolution an outgrowth of a community of like- minded musicians. "I don't scout artists. I only release music with people that I know well and that I feel complete trust in, both artistically and personally. Basically the people on Moserobie are my musical family."
It's quite an extended musical family. Zetterberg has released four recordings: two with his "Hot Five" and two remarkable, probing works for an octet while Gulz has released two recordings. Further afield, Atomic and Brotzmann Tentet trumpet player Magnus Broo has two releases. Pinton, a powerful baritone player has issued four recordings with his quintet. Pianist/composer Ludwig Berghe has released four discs for the label with his trio. "All these musicians are the core musicians on the label. I've known them for many years and they have helped me build the label."
The label has also issued two recordings by Per Henrik Wallin, a pianist who passed away in 2005. Wallin is considered a father figure by many of Sweden's younger modern jazz contingent. Moserobie has issued two of his recordings. Mandelstam
is a big band recording (by Wallin And His Gang) brimming with top-flight soloists playing exploratory, well-arranged charts that do more than just set up a string of soloists. Veldromer
, Wallin's final recording, is a solo piano album whose 29 tracks teem with originality and personal expression and pay homage to his influences. "I'm extremely happy about the Veldromer album. It was released only one week before Per Henrik passed away. He was also really happy with it. It's a strong statement from one of the greatest musicians I have ever met. I was very fortunate to be a part of his musical history as a member of his Gang on the Tiveden
[on Phono Suenica] and Mandelstam
albums." As far as any further recordings by Wallin: "There is an unissued live recording by the Gang that is planned to be released in the future. I have a big pile of letters from Per Henrik about what songs he wants to keep and the titles for the songs and the album. I don't know when it will be out though."
Plans for the immediate future include a new release by Kullrusk, a quartet with Kullhammar and Per "Rusktrask" Johansson playing electric saxophones and clarinets. They have two previous releases on the label. "We will release a new album by the electrified group Kullrusk. The title is Digital and it will only be released on vinyl in a limited numbered edition of 500 copies. It will not be released on CD or download. Then we will release a disc by the Ludvig Berghe Trio and Nina Ramsby. Nina is an excellent singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist. The music will be by Ludwig and Nina with Swedish lyrics but I think the world will appreciate it anyway. Maybe there will be an English version in the future."
As far as his own releases, there will be a Jonas Kullhammar Quartet boxed set celebrating their ten years and they will also record a new studio album later this year. There's a trio album Kullhammar recorded with bassist Ole Morten Vagan and drummer Kresten Osgood and a quartet album with Fredrik Lundkvist, Jonas Westergaard and Paal Nilssen-Love.
When accessing the label website the first thing that pops up is the logo and the motto: "Independent Jazz For World Peace." How so? "Moserobie is independent and good music makes people happy and peaceful. I do think that music makes the world a better place." And the name and logo of the label? "I was running a club with some friends in Stockholm from 1999-2001 at a place named Mosebacke in Stockholm. 'Mose' is from Mosebacke and 'Robie' is from guitarist Robert Ostlund. The logo is a lion and I think Moserobie is a good name for a lion."